Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Hanhardt walks on new landscape, but it's the same Chicago Way

The Chicago Outfit's top cop, former Chicago Police Chief of Detectives William Hanhardt, left federal prison Tuesday after a decade behind bars.
Once he was a rock star. If you want to understand Chicago you've got to understand that when Hanhardt would show up in a police district station, you'd think the Beatles had arrived. They'd crowd around him, because he was the guy who could make things happen.
He could make a detective with a nod of his head, or have somebody's brother-in-law transferred. He ran things. And his friends were the guys who ran City Hall.
On Tuesday he wasn't a rock star. He was an 82-year-old man eased into a Near West Side halfway house, to sleep there nights and walk free by day, to find a relentless truth: Things change.
But the Chicago Way is the one street that remains constant. The Outfit paved it years ago with local politicians and bureaucrats who control licenses, and with judges and lawyers and law enforcement honchos like Bill Hanhardt.
"He comes out, the landscape has changed on him," Hanhardt's former friend and former Chicago Police Superintendent Richard Brzeczek told me Tuesday. "He's old, but he did survive prison. That's something."
The arc of his career runs from hero cop to mob cop. The news media made him a hero, and he made the impossible cases. But there's a school of thought that his tips came from the Outfit, to be used against those who didn't have Outfit sanction, against cowboys who didn't understand that crime in Chicago is business.
So, did Hanhardt turn bad at the end? Or was he always the Outfit's man, as federal authorities have thought for years?
"I defended him," said Brzeczek, who added that he thought Hanhardt was clean back in the day. "But when he pleaded guilty, there was nothing to defend. … And you know, sometimes two plus two doesn't add up. When you look at his life, and what happened, maybe arithmetic doesn't work. Maybe it's no arithmetic. Maybe it's algebra."
Or maybe it's alchemy, that special kind of algebra found on Grand Avenue, when mob boss Joey "the Clown" Lombardo was king.
Years ago, as a decorated police officer, Hanhardt testified as a defense witness in the federal trial of two Lombardo proteges, Chicago Outfit killer Tony Spilotro and his brother, Michael. Hanhardt undercut the testimony of a key federal informant. The judge ruled a mistrial, the Spilotros came home. And then they were murdered.
These days, Lombardo — whom the FBI considers to be Hanhardt's longtime patron — is in federal prison on a life sentence from the Family Secrets trial, and is rumored to be in very ill health.
Another Hanhardt buddy is also away. Former 10th Ward Ald. Ed "Fast Eddie" Vrdolyak is doing his own federal time for a crooked real estate deal.
So with Joe and Fast Eddie out of the picture, who'll throw the welcome home party for the boss of detectives in Chicago? There's only one choice, really: It's now called VIP's A Gentlemen's Club, but it was previously known as Crazy Horse Too.
Years ago, there was a going-away party there for a Hanhardt friend, former Chicago detective Fred Pascente, convicted of insurance fraud in 1995 in connection with a series of phony traffic accidents. My sources, including law enforcement, remember that the place was jammed with what seemed to be the entire CPD detective division.
Back then, Lombardo's brother, Rocky, was a manager of the Crazy Horse Too club in Las Vegas. Chicago and Vegas were kind of like suburbs of each other. More recently, the Sun-Times has reported that for the past 18 years, while City Hall has ostensibly tried to shut down the bar, an amazing thing has happened: The bar has changed names, but continues to sell hard liquor and naked or near-naked girls dancing on poles.
"You'll have to talk to the manager," said a young woman on the phone. She said the manager's name was Bill, and put me through.
I asked Bill if his place was hosting the Hanhardt homecoming.
"I don't know," he said. "Never heard of him."
When Hanhardt was finally arrested for running that mob-sponsored national jewelry theft ring, some were surprised. The Outfit hit man Paul "the Indian" Schiro was part of the crew. And they received tips and intelligence — including information on targets — from Chicago police.
But those who weren't surprised included officials like Ted McNamara and his federal colleagues who busted Hanhardt, who avoided trial by pleading guilty to everything.
"That was an indicator of the involvement of many people," said Jody Weis, former Chicago police superintendent and FBI supervisor and now deputy director of the Chicago Crime Commission. "By pleading guilty, there were a lot of roads that were closed off. It would have been nice to travel down those roads, but he didn't want that."
The cops who helped Hanhardt didn't want the feds exploring those roads. And then-Mayor Richard Daley and then-Police Superintendent Terry Hillard would become apoplectic if you'd mention Hanhardt's case around them. And the Outfit didn't want anyone going down those roads.
So Bill Hanhardt wised up and went away. He never talked. And now, an old man, he's back.
It's a different landscape, maybe.
But it's the same Chicago Way.



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